When she was a girl, Bebe Cassin and her younger brother would be sent on a train from California to Illinois, where they would spend summers on their grandparent’s farm. After a day riding the tractor and helping with the wheat harvest, she would return to the simple farmhouse and settle in with a good book, her grandmother’s quilts and the smell of pies baking in the oven.
It left a lasting impression.
“It made me love anything country,” she said.
Now, the house in Los Altos Hills she shares with her husband, B.J. Cassin, is in many ways an homage to rustic Americana. And it is has become the communal gathering place of their five children and seven grandchildren that – as Bebe likes to say – aren’t allowed to live outside a three-mile radius of the family home.
From early American pie safes to antique sideboards to folk art on the walls, Bebe has spent a lifetime finding pieces she loves.
“Luckily, B.J. went along with my collecting,” she said of her husband of 48 years, a venture capitalist and philanthropist. “I’m glad he doesn’t like modern – it would never have worked out.”
While the house is not farmhouse in style like her grandparents’, it is a classic white Monterey Colonial, providing a fresh backdrop to her favorite reds, whites and blues. And the couple have graciously opened it to numerous fund-raisers, most recently to benefit the Los Altos History Museum.
A curving country road takes visitors up to the three-acre, manicured estate, dripping with oaks and hydrangeas. On first approach, the three-story rear of the house, bedecked with windows, reveals itself. Down below, a vineyard is ripening fruit, readying for its first year of production for the couple’s “Red Setter” label named after their favorite breed of dogs.
Winding around to the front of the house, past the caretaker’s cottage, swimming pool and tennis court, a whitewashed gate beckons visitors into the front courtyard. Wicker settees with fluffy Nantucket blue pillows and a Jasper Johns-style American flag painting hanging under the eaves welcome you in.
The couple purchased the property in 1990, when only their last child remained at home. They remodeled the kitchen and opened up the servants’ quarters into a large, vaulted-ceiling family room. In the loft above, Bebe keeps her collection of antique dolls, quilts and pull toys that are at the ready for her grandchildren to play with. In the house hang two folk paintings by Charles Wysocki. Bebe also acquired an old wagon that reminds her of her grandfather’s wagon on the farm and turned it into a coffee table in the sun room.
While the pool and tennis court used to be down below where the vineyard is now, they rebuilt the pool and tennis court on higher ground across from the front courtyard to take advantage of the sunshine. Downstairs, in what used to be the dressing rooms for the pool, the Cassins converted the space to a wine cellar with an antique round chopping block for tastings, and a playroom with a billiards table that is kid-central during the couple’s annual Christmas party.
Bebe keeps some of her favorite pieces closest to her. An antique secretary and a Lincoln rocker that belonged to her great grandparents ornament the master bedroom and her great-grandmother’s lavender quilt is nearby in the loft.
They remind her of her childhood in Illinois. And whenever she thinks of those days, “I just love that whole feeling.”
Here’s the complete slideshow: